I keep trying to find a way to write this post without really writing it. I think I keep waiting until I can sound as though I have things under control or at least figured out. In some sense, I do have things “figured out” — but only for others. I give decent advice. Good advice, sometimes. Advice I wish I could give myself and follow. Advice I wish I had followed. My favorite people to ask for advice are the ones I know will tell me what I’d tell myself if I were in the habit of listening to myself. My least favorite people to receive unsolicited advice from are the same ones, because sometimes even I don’t want to hear it. Because I know. I’m supposed to have this stuff figured out. I’ve had it figured out for years. I just don’t listen.
I could give you a list of reasons — perfectly valid reasons — that the last six months or so have been all over the place for me, personally and professionally. If you met me for coffee and asked me how I was doing, I’d breezily answer that I was fine, terribly busy, but fine; having dealt with some personal stuff, but fine, great even! I would be polished, put together, enthusiastic about some project or other, because I always manage to have some project. I would look fine. I would seem fine. You wouldn’t need to worry about me because I’m the indestructible M, she who always bounces back. I’m good at bouncing back. I’ve had a lot of practice.
I’m a fantastic liar. Sure, I’ll let you see all kinds of vulnerabilities. I’ll let you see where you think my weaknesses are so you never see the real ones. M is too hard on herself, you’d observe. M is anxious about a lot of things — well, that one’s true, but I take a strange sort of pride in it. There’s this smart-person-anxiety that I’ve found those of us who are and/or want to be overachievers share. That anxiety puts me in good company, and it’s a good mask for the rest of it.
I think I most often give the impression that I have “struggled” with depression and anxiety in the past, like it’s something I figured out how to cope with. Like it’s firmly in the past and under control.
It’s not. I’m writing this during what I’d like to tell myself is the tail end of a several-months-long depressive episode. I’ve been telling myself and others the story that I’ve been dealing with some illness and injury this year, and that’s not untrue — I did have two colds in a row that took forever to go away, and I did aggravate an old injury that kept me off my feet for a while. But I’m 100% sure that both of those things would have resolved more quickly if I hadn’t also been incredibly depressed.
Depression is a liar. It tells me I’m being lazy when I can’t motivate myself to do anything up to and including properly feed myself. You wouldn’t think, to look at me, that I have any issues with feeding myself, but shockingly enough the human body tends to rebel against being mistreated, and weight gain can be as much a symptom of neglect as anything else. Depression makes it hard to make good choices because all I want is to stop feeling horrible for five minutes, and if the way out of feeling horrible for five minutes is coffee and sugary carbs, I’ll take it.
Depression tells me I had better not get new headshots taken yet; I need a haircut, my hair’s a mess, and besides wouldn’t I rather wait until I’ve taken off the ten pounds I put on over the winter, and aren’t I looking kind of tired? Depression tells me to put off going to auditions because I’m not ready, I’m a mess who doesn’t even have headshots, just wait until I’m a little more together and then I’ll get back to it. Depression tells me to go for the safer choices because I’m not good enough for the risky ones. Depression tells me to stay in bed and sleep and alternately keeps me awake at night writing posts like this in an attempt to connect with an audience I’m intentionally distanced from.
Depression tells me I don’t deserve friends, that people don’t really like me, that they’re just being nice, that I don’t really have any value that others would seek in a friendship. That alternately shy and awkward and too outspoken, and who wants to deal with that? That I have too many issues. That I’m only ever going to be a second choice or a third wheel. That I’m the friend no one really misses when she’s gone.
Depression means that I decide, in the end, that the only one I can count on is me. It keeps me in isolation, determined, this time, to fix myself. To solve this all on my own. To finally be smarter than my own brain.
I’ve been here before, and I’ll probably be here again, and I’ll probably be fine. That’s all true. It’s true that I’m more together than I feel, and that I do occasionally listen to advice, and I don’t believe most of what my brain tries to tell me.
But it’s also true that I’m not okay right now, and if I say I am, I’m lying.